Tag Archives: racism

From Police to Police State

You would think with the eye on the RCMP over the Dziekanski inquiry, that both RCMP and city police would be on better behavior in Greater Vancouver. Note that some municipalities use a local police force while others use the RCMP.

Now, granted there have been a helluva lot of gang shootings to date, with at least 18 dead so far, so probably the police are a little jumpy. And we already know based on testimony by the four very fit RCMP officers who taser Robert Dziekanski to death that they’ll take raised hands or a desk stapler as a threat of deadly force and use it in kind. Oh and that they didn’t panic. These guys might have looked better if they said they had panicked but that they were cool and calculating about taking down an unarmed man and tasering him four more times while he writhed in pain is even more scary.

So, just maybe everyone wants to use caution more. Police once upon a time used to be trained in ways to take a person down using just their hands. And if the criminal was carrying a dangerous weapon, well disarm them. Shoot to kill was the last resort. However, that’s now changed and shoot to kill, ask questions later is the order of the day.

In March a homeless man was approached by police for stealing from a car. Later it turns out he wasn’t the thief but he supposedly advanced on them wielding an X-acto knife. Now it could be the police havexacto1 misnamed it but many X-acto knives are tiny, with a wedge-shaped blade of about an inch. They are very sharp and potentially lethal at close range. You’d have to get very close and personal to inflict damage. This image of a range of X-acto blades was taken from www.dickblick.com with the most common being the triangular shape.

So the police shot the guy in the stomach and killed him. Sure it was two women police officers and maybe they were scared. But they could have backed up, I think. And why couldn’t they shoot the guy in the arm or the leg, thereby giving him a lot of pain and disabling him from advancing? There was no need to shoot him in the stomach. Were they bad aims. Or was the X-acto blade much larger and being hurled at them?

On April 5th the police shot a guy in a Ford F350 truck who was allegedly stealing it. It seems that when they tried to block the truck the guy gunned it at the police car. The police shot at him, one shot, and wounded him. The car thief is expected to recover. In this case most people agree the police had a right to shoot. I doubt they had time to react with more than that with the truck coming at them. And it’s pretty hard to shoot to disable when someone is sitting in a vehicle with tinted glass. They could have tried to shoot out the tires but at that point it was probably not obvious what the guy had planned. I should note here that in Vancouver, up until recently it’s extremely rare that a police officer would shoot anyone. Once a year is more often than normal.

So we’ve had two shootings in four months. Not to mention the three off-duty cops that beat up and robbed a delivery driver. Sure, they’re the exception and yahoos from three different cities. But what this all points to is that there is a perceived image that the police forces (municipal and RCMP) are out of control. Police departments need to take a proactive stance and see if their training is adequate. As well, training needs to start with immobilizing a threat in the safest way possible to everyone. That means trying to take down a person with minimal physical violence, moving from  hands to taser to guns only when lives are threatened. That means not a perceived threat as the RCMP somehow saw in an office stapler. A deadly threat means being shot at or run down.

These departments also need to look at who they’re hiring. Bigoted, snobby and racist police will be more likely to prejudice a situation with their perspectives. What suitability tests are run on these candidates to ensure they stay calm, level-headed, use reasoning to assess a situation and don’t let prejudices get in their way. (I won’t do more than mention the many women of the downtown East side who disappeared over the years withouth the police doing anything because the women were drug addicts and prostitutes.) They need to have some basic psychology and counselling courses and learn how to verbally diffuse a situation as well.

I’m not saying all police are bad and they have a tough job. Some are probably nervous with all the shootings. But I do think a reassessment of training procedures is in order. We’d like to know that the next time we lift up a piece of paper or even give a cop the finger that we won’t be shot for it. Otherwise, we’ll probably all tow the line as we move into a police state of mind.

An addendum to yesterday’s post: With all three incidences mentioned above, the police have confiscated video or film taken at the scene. At the shooting of the homeless man, the police went through the guy’s phone and he said they erased the footage of the shooting. We all know what happened with the footage from the Dziekanski tasering. With this last one, they manhandled and threatened to arrest a newspaper photographer if he didn’t relinguish his camera. There is a disturbing trend towards the erosion of our civil liberties and the police taking, tampering or trying to hide evidence of questionable investigations. Even if they haven’t tampered they are giving the impression by confiscating materials in such a way. And if we don’t have freedom of the press, we don’t have checks and balances. Again, retraining seems to be needed here.

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US Border Security Escapades

Over the years I have gone over the Canadian-US border a lot. With friends in Seattle I’d drive down sometimes several times a month. In most cases, there have been the usual spate of questions by the border guards and away I’d go. Since 9/11 I’ve only been stopped once, which was pretty much the random draw of the lane. Some guards have been big on asking numerous questions, which often contain, where are you going, where are you staying, how long will you be gone, how long have you known your friends, where did you meet them, open your trunk, whose car is this, where do you work, etc. Fairly standard. The following three tales relate some of the more…involved interactions with US border security (who are definitely more tight-assed than the Canadian side).

Incident one really wasn’t a big issue. A friend and I were going down to the US on a sunny Sunday. We noticed that day that there were a lot of Asians and Arabic people. And sure enough we were pulled over and searched at random. However, when we had to go inside and present our ID and answer questions, we noticed the predominance of the aforementioned peoples. I told my friend at that point that it was obvious we were picked just so that US customs could not be charged with racism in their searches. I’d say the ratio was one white person/car to ten people of darker skin types. Interesting when you consider that the border crossings probably have the ratio the other way around with at least ten white people to one person of color going over. This was before we heard much of the phrase “racial profiling.”

Incident number two involved the fast lane border passes. I forget what they were called but they all ended with September 11, and several years later they brought back the passes but call them Nexus now. Because I was going down every weekend I applied for and received the pass. It took months to receive. The first day of using it, which speeds up going through the border when you have nothing to declare, was a Sunday. I picked up my friend and we started on our way down. Now I had an apple in the car that I had been intending to eat and forgot about.

We we arrived at the booth, in honesty I said, I have an apple I forgot to eat (which was most likely a Washington apple anyways). Well, the border guard, you know the type, the ex-arm sergeant who’s bitter that he didn’t get promoted who believes everyone is still a bug that has to be brought into line and brainwashed to OBEY ORDERS tells me to pull over. I got out of the car and said, “Here is the offending apple.”

But, oh no, that was not good enough. We had to go upstairs. I can’t remember whether they searched the car but most likely. We had to stand with all the other boys and girls and wait to get a filled out reprimand form for disobeying the rules of the pass, where I tried to reiterate that I had only forgotten to eat the apple and I had let them know, which was not heard and I was told, another infringement and we will take away your pass. It was my first day of using it, I had been honest about what I had, it was a mistake, but still I was treated like I was one degree short of a mass murderer. 

Shortly after, 9/11 happened and the passes were made null and void. However, they didn’t refund our money for the unused portions. I should say that with the pass, if you bought anything at all, even a pack of gum, you were expected to fill out a claim form to be deposited when you went through the border. The problem with these forms was that the provincial government would then send you a bill for any taxes on the amount spent. Normally, when you buy something and go through the border you have a tax/duty free exemption of a certain amount depending on how long you’ve been gone. This was somehow waived if you used the passes and had to pay more. Which did garner me another search when I bought a bottle of wine and chose to go through the regular lineup rather than pay extra taxes (which defeated the purpose of buying over the border).

Incident number 3 involved going down for the Christmas holidays. It was the morning of Christmas eve and I was planning to stay at my friends in Tacoma, driving down in my Honda Civic. However, we had had a freak snowstorm the night before, with about two-three feet of snow, and I couldn’t get my car out of the parking spot.

I chose to take the bus rather than remain in Canada for the holidays. Over the years I have had streaks of color in my hair: turquoise, blue, purple, red. I’m not sure what color it was then but probably purple. We’re not talking punkified cuts here but long hair with a streak or two. I had a winter coat that was made up of squares of purple, yellow and green. I wore quite a few rings.

When we arrived at the border, we all had to disembark and go through customs. At the counter this hulking black guy started asking questions that went something like this: Where are you going? To my friends for Christmas. What are you going to do there? Eat and sleep and visit. How much money are you bringing down? About $30. That’s not very much. What if you need something. It’s Christmas eve; I’m not planning to shop. The stores will be closed. What if you get stranded or the bus breaks down? I’ll call my friends. What if you can’t reach them? I have three credit cards right here. You could have them maxed out. What are you going to do if you’re stuck? (At this point I was getting angry. I almost said, I’ll stand on the street corner and sell my rings.) My cards aren’t maxed out. I could call my friends or use my bank card. How do I know that you have any money in your account? (I almost said, but bit my tongue, are you asking me all these questions because of the color of my hair? ) Look, I was going to drive down but my car got stuck in all the snow. (Suddenly a look that suggests I’ve just moved one level above bug out to steal US jobs on Christmas eve.) Oh, you have a car? Yes, I couldn’t drive because of the freak snow storm. (And luckily for me.) Here’s a bank receipt from yesterday showing that I have money in my account. Oh, you have money in your account. Okay you’re free to go. Have a nice Christmas. Yeah, right. (What this guy was really trying for was to make me cry so that he could go, why are you crying? Oh, don’t worry, little lady, you can go now.)

I will never ever ever take a bus over the border again. They automatically think you’re an unemployed lowlife. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the woman I sat beside on the way back. She was American living and working in Canada. She said, It doesn’t matter which customs I go through. Watch, I’ll be the last back on the bus. She had to bring bill receipts showing she had an address in Canada because the official letter/piece of paper wasn’t enough. And sure enough they ran her through the ringer before she was allowed back on the bus.

If you’re ever needing good examples of anal retention and people pushing power, the border is a great place place to hang out.

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Police Recruitment: Beat a Brownie

Here’s a new recruitment poster for police forces in BC. Something that more fits the bill.

XYPD (fill in your favorite force here)  is looking for a few good white men. You must be in great physical condition and have good coercion skills. A narrow-minded attitude is an asset. You should have failed your degree in criminology or have no education beyond high school. Blind obedience, anger and a need for power are why you want to join the force.

 Considered an asset:

  • bigotry
  • beating innocent people
  • racism
  • drunk and disorderly behavior while off duty
  • stupidity
  • bullying
  • prolonged and unprovoked use of a Taser
  • able to swear more colorfully than a sailor
  • will dump drunk people in cold and inhospitable places
  • creative excuses
  • a criminal record (physical violence, bribes, blackmail, drugrunning)
  • will shoot instead of subduing
  • will shoot and ask questions later

If you think you have the wrong stuff and know you can prove you’re a tough rookie, join XYPD today. Going places with power. Judge Dredd is our hero.

Who is Judge Dredd? A British comic book character in the future Britain who is strict, harsh and follows the letter of the law. In this future world police are also judge, jury and executioner. Though in fact I believe Dredd does have some scruples. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Dredd

Police in BC are fighting a marred image that has come after such cases as the drunk Native man dumped in an alley and found frozen to death, the highly publicized death of Robert Dziekański (5 Tasers to the chest) Cases of corruption and now the latest public relations nightmare hasn’t helped the sinking ship of a police force that is supposed to uphold the law, not abuse it and use it for their own means.

Last Tuesday, January 20, three off-duty policemen took it upon themselves to beat up a man who delivered papers to the hotels. Phil Khan had been delivering papers for seven years, was well known on his regular route and was only doing his job, when  a guy started asking for directions, verbally abusing him. Khan is a Muslim and of brown skin.

The guy proceeded to beat him and when a cab driver dropped of two other guys, they joined in on kicking and beating the man who was crying out for help. When the cab driver and others told them to stop, they said they were the police and told the guy they were beating that they had a Taser and would use it on him. One of them said that they didn’t like “brown people.”

Obviously they’d been drinking but three off-duty cops, one from Delta, one from New Westminster and one from West Vancouver who were stupid enough to beat a person and then tell everyone that they were cops really shouldn’t be on the force. Let’s not mention a racist hate crime here. And this is the police force. Whether on or off-duty they’re supposed to uphold the law, not abuse it.

It used to be that you couldn’t get a job on the police force if you had a record. These days it’s becoming par for the course. Two of these cops are now on desk jobs awaiting word of the investigation while a third still patrols the beat, (and perhaps threatens other people). The investigation by the Vancouver police department has yet to net charges but there were witnesses: two city workers, a MacDonald’s worker, a cab driver who tried to stop it until the guys said they were cops.

But someone did call 911 and when the police came they handcuffed Phil Khan. Of course, if in doubt as to who to incarcerate, go for the colored guy. Now probably these three stooges who decided to boot the guy about also told the cops that they were cops, which went well until the witnesses said, no you’ve cuffed the victim. Then the three were arrested. All I can say is with the rep the cops have it almost makes more sense to trust the criminals these days. But then they’ll soon be hired to be the new police force.

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Carleton Votes Against Cystic Fibrosis

Carleton University is getting more attention than they want right now. The Student Association voted against fundraising for cystic fibrosis, something they’ve been doing for more than 25 years. Although one council member argues that they wanted to rotate charities, the statement that cystic fibrosis was primarily a white man’s disease was a deciding factor.

Yoicks! Where have the brains of students gone? As it turns out, CF affects as many girls as boys (not men here, many young people). From what I remember from anthropology there are three distinct racial groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid, where specific physical and genetic traits differentiate them. The Caucasoid or Caucasian group includes white people, some North American First Nations, Indians, people from the Middle East and Europe. Many of them have brown skin but they’re of the caucasoid group. Not to mention many people are of mixed race and therefore can be black and white.

So, the Carelton U council got their facts wrong. But let’s say their facts were right, that the disease they were fundraising to help eradicate only affected white men. What if they then had voted this in, as they thought they were? It seems some people can’t see the reverse racism here. Should a person suffer because they are of a certain color, or a certain gender, even if it is the one we joke about as the least popular: white male? Should a child suffer because he was born a white boy?

Sickle cell anemia predominantly affects black people. Other diseases affect particular ages, or races or genders. Should one disease be barred from research or its victims from the benefits of such research because of this. Carleton U Student Association, time you guys took a class on ethics.

I’m all for equality but that means not biasing one group over another, not favoring one and not ostracizing any. If Carleton had voted to rotate their charity, that would have been a different story. But they didn’t. It’s sad to think that people get so caught up in being politically correct that they don’t see how incorrect they have really become. And in case anyone doubts the words, here is their motion:

Whereas Orientation week strives to be inclusive as possible
Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities
And whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men
Be it further resolved that: The CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/11/25/ot-081125-shinerama.html

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Homophobia and the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf

The school district of Abbotsford is at it again. A high school course is being offered called Social Justice. It deals with issues and rights for animals, gay people, races, gender, etc. This is a Ministry of Education approved course and outlines what Canadian law covers in terms of rights. It was approved to be offered this fall.

Typical of Abbotsford, where the school district has in the past banned various books because of their content, some of it being about gay people, they yet again stuck their noses in, in an effort to slow down the inevitable offering of this course.

Now Abbotsford is an interesting place. It’s nearly an hour from Vancouver and now that housing has become unaffordable for the average human in Vancouver or even Maple Ridge, people are buying out there. I have several friends who bought in Abbotsford but it’s history is more right wing. I was a book rep at one point and drove all over BC. Abbotsford was one place where religious fundamentalism raised its hoary head. I had to be very careful what I wore (taking off my extra rings) and what books I showed the bookstores. In one, even a pictorial depiction of Jesus was frowned upon. An interesting note is that this city contains many bikers as well as the bible thumpers. I’m sure it’s changing with more people moving out from Vancouver.

However, you still have that religious right screaming out about unsuitable materials in the school any time a true education is offered, especially if it involves homosexual content. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trying to wheedle out content based on different races too. So Abbotsford school district pretending yet again that they’re just doing a “normal” (for them, maybe) review process smacks too much of the same ole prejudices. They’re the little boy crying wolf.

Yet again we have people who purport to be Christians, those who should “love thy neighbor” and to “turn the other cheek” should something offend them. Yet they get all riled up when “those people” don’t live by their values. I just can’t figure out what it matters to anyone else. Hold your religion and beliefs in your heart and don’t push them onto others. Compassion? Puhleeze. It’s only given to those who tow the line the way the fundamentalists want. How hypocritical. Really, who a person has sex with (as long as it’s not your spouse or someone under age) is no one else’s business. I could decide that in my religion the color blue was “eeeevil” and then start running around and trying to get it banned or not allowing books that mentioned blue in the schools .

Everyone might think me a kook but should my religion get more followers we could then form a cadre and start ostracizing people based on their blueness. If I don’t want blue around me, fine, but realize that other people live by other beliefs and it’s none of your business. They don’t need “saving” and they don’t want it. I really wish fundamentalists of every religion would take a reality pill and chill out. Let everyone live their lives and if they aren’t hurting someone else, let it be.

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Racist Rage

I had to take the bus downtown today since I had laser eye surgery yesterday and had a checkup appointment. Rarely do I take the bus but I had no choice as my eyes aren’t clear enough yet to drive. Morning traffic, students, shoppers, people going to work. It’s a sunny day, the first warm one we’ve had in a while. The bus from my eastside place passes through Chinatown; not as big as San Francisco’s but  the second largest in North America. Many people hop on and off the bus to shop in Chinatown.

Vancouver is fairly multi-ethnic and there has always been a substantial Asian population (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, etc.). The bus was full of people. My eyes were a bit blurry so details were fuzzy but there was at least one black woman, quite a few Chinese, a bunch of whites and this guy who could have been First Nations, maybe Mexican.

He’d had some issue with his bag. Maybe it had spilled, maybe he dropped something. I could quite tell. He had been standing but at some point he gathered up his jacket and other bits and found a seat by moving against those trying to get off the bus, where he swore at the “chink” and “yellow bastard” saying don’t push me. I looked at him (in my giant super dark sunglasses) and several people heard this. After he sat down on a seat that faces the aisle, in front of a seat that faces the front, he proceeded to fiddle with stuff and had his shoe in his hand.

Then he started to swear again, in the same vein at the people sitting beside him. I missed some of it but the guy sitting near to where I was standing said, “You can’t talk to people like that,” very emphatically. Then the guy turned on him to a chorus of fuck offs back and forth where Mr. Belligerent then threatened to “take care” of this other guy at the next stop. At this point I kept an eye on him in case he pulled a knife.

In the meantime, this guy is working at tying a dreamcatcher together, one of the ones that looks fairly prefabricated, but large, about 8-10 inches across, dark brown suede with white feathers and an eagle on it. It was ironic that this guy is working on what is in essence a First Nations spiritual tool while he cursed and threatened. I also told him that he should try being polite to people. The bus driver yelled out that if he swore again he’d be kicked off.

I then found a seat behind the guy who had told off Mr. Belligerent. Mr. B was putting his shoe back on, then again said to the other guy, “Come on, off the bus here and we’ll settle this.” The other guy said, “I don’t want to fight you.” As Mr. B got up to get off the bus, he whacked the cap off the guy’s head in front of me and scuttled away. I gave the guy back his hat.

I used to think racism was only something that white people did to others but here was an example again of how it can hit any person. Mostly this guy seemed mad at the world, belligerent and maybe in need of medication. And spouting things like “yellow bastard” just made it sound like he was regurgitating something he’s heard and taken as the local vernacular in swears. If we all started saying “frak” as they do on Battlestar Galactica it would replace “fuck” but still carry the same weight and be the next banned word from polite society.

Still, the overt racism this guy exhibited was sad and shocking and, I’m happy to say, didn’t sit well with most of the people on the bus. He obviously had other issues, such as anger, but lashing out didn’t serve a lot. I always presumed that a group of people who have had racism perpetuated upon them might be less likely to perpetrate the model. And that’s probably true in most cases but there are always exceptions. Hopefully that guy can find some peace before he does himself and others damage.

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